Content marketing has moved from a niche brand offering to a marketing-must in a big way. It’s hard to think of a brand that doesn’t offer some kind of personalized content for its audience.
These days, people have unparalleled control over the ads that reach them. They can skip commercials, exit online ads, and skip YouTube pre-rolls after four (long, anguishing) seconds. Traditional advertising is now served up alongside the content that people are really trying to engage with – whether it be an article, Mad Men episode, or viral cat video. What’s different about content marketing is that it provides engaging and relevant content in and of itself.
That’s not to say that content marketing should stand alone. A brand can’t start a blog and end all other marketing and advertising efforts. More importantly, a brand can’t launch a blog without strategy. Content marketing should weave flawlessly into social media marketing and complement traditional advertising. It should match a brand’s personality, and be in-tune with its audience.
Good content marketing engages people and gives them something to come back for. Doing it well takes imagination, intuition, and strategy. And though every business should offer some form of content to their audience, they shouldn’t do it without strategic planning. It takes work and focus. But a successful effort can further brand awareness in an unprecedented way.
One success story we can speak to is Spark, a fashion and lifestyle blog we developed together with St. Vital Centre. Even though Spark was something we had envisioned for a while, it took years to come to fruition. There were marketing phases we had to undergo to ensure that there was an engaged audience ready to consume our content. We created a plan that was multifaceted, moving in stages from awareness and branding, to social media engagement, to content offering.
Early in our relationship with the Centre, we worked on increasing brand awareness with billboards, transit, and in-Centre signage. We spent time creating awareness of St. Vital Centre as an accessible and relatable lifestyle brand. Once awareness was achieved, we began to work on creating a more interactive and engaged brand, by building a social community and focusing on two-way advertising versus the traditional one-way. We created a social media presence for St. Vital Centre, and engaged audiences with contest microsites, quizzes, and frequent giveaways. We also began to elevate the fashion facet of the brand, producing unique style and beauty content for social media and seasonal campaigns. The high audience engagement and overwhelmingly positive response confirmed both the desire for this type of content, and its ability to affect sales.
For us, a blog was a natural fit for St. Vital Centre. Their brand is stylish and fun, aspirational but attainable, in-the-know without being a know-it-all – the perfect voice for a fashion and lifestyle blog. There was a void of high quality fashion blogs in Winnipeg, and we saw a perfect opportunity to fill that void.
Spark has been producing content for just over a year now, and together with our client and a talented support team, we continue to produce content that excites us as much as it informs and delights our audience. Developing good content is no easy task, and involves ongoing planning and post writing, coordinating and directing regular photoshoots (including booking models, photographers, and videographers), website maintenance, and more. Aside from content development, we are also in charge of bringing traffic to the blog. We achieve this through social media, contests, email subscriptions, in-Centre hoarding and backlit posters, and even in-store, on our “As Seen On Spark” product tags and stickers. Spark averages over 4,000 hits per month, and is steadily increasing.
And most importantly, the Centre has continued to report ongoing sales increases in key categories since the blog's inception.
This post is brought to you by Creative Communications graduate Margaret Howison, whom we've had the pleasure of hosting as an intern here for the past three weeks. Margaret fit in so well at Fusion that it's going to be hard to see her go! Best of luck, Margaret – I hope we see you at Fusion again someday.
It’s going to sound a bit like a movie cliché, but my interest in advertising started one day in class when an instructor made some motivational comment, something to the effect of “advertising can be used for the good or for the bad,” read: with great power comes great responsibility. Maybe that seems obvious, but having come into my very first (mandatory) ad class with a pretty narrow, and even skeptical understanding of the trade, I found the idea revolutionary.
A few terrible radio spots and print ads, a couple of internal struggles, and a handful of breakthroughs later, I found myself graduating from Creative Communications with a major in advertising — and later walking into an ad agency (Fusion) for the first time for a three-week internship.
When I was asked to write about my experiences at Fusion for the company’s blog, I couldn’t help but take the opportunity to hash out some of my preconceived notions about ad agencies.
Revelation 1: Not everyone who works in ad agencies likes Mad Men. Okay, most of them do, but I counted two at Fusion that don’t. Sometimes when I tell people I’m in advertising, they say “just like Mad Men,” and I say “yep,” without really knowing what they are talking about. I’m almost afraid that if I say I haven’t gotten into it yet, they’ll think I’m not a true ad girl. I’m not saying I’ll never watch it — I’m just happy to know it’s not a pre-requisite.
Revelation 2: Some agencies are so much about that workplace culture. Yes to an ongoing intra-office Wii bowling competition. Yes to monthly potlucks and beer-at-four Fridays. Yes to a game of darts to stimulate creativity. Yes to dogs — so many little dogs — walking around the office.
Revelation 3: Ad agencies are not scary places. Dispelling my fears that I’d be entering a workplace with a whirlwind of a pace, when I walked into Fusion, I felt an almost immediate urge to walk slower and breathe deeper.
It’s a place where white walls are canvasses for big ideas, daily schedules, and bowling scores. Little office cubes are spread over a sprawling rectangular interior like mouse houses. Chattering never travels quite so far as the sounds of footsteps clicking across the wooden floors. It’s the kind of place where the bathroom smells better than bathrooms should. And the lounge — fit with a pool table, dartboard, and huge flat screen TV — is enough to make my inner teenager ecstatic.
Revelation 4: Some agencies let their intern in on a lot. Three weeks isn’t a long time to get into a new work rhythm. There are learning curves and new procedures, and people who are really fast at what they do. While I could have been doing coffee and Bronut runs, or shelf dusting or paper clip counting or anything else that didn’t require the slow down and walk-through from someone else — I wasn’t. Since I’ve been here I have attended client conferences, crisis management meetings, photo shoots, and briefings; I’ve written case studies, samples, headlines, tweets, and blogs; I’ve participated in brainstorms, worked on social media strategies, and walked around the office deciding what to Instagram (staff pickle jar?). I was even given an opportunity to project manage a logo design and was almost elated to see the three beautiful designs that were introduced at the logo presentation.
It’s been a rewarding experience and a great introduction into a thoughtful, creative industry. If I were to give my work placement experience a brand personality, I would call it fun, enlightening, and refreshing.
Ads have recently made their way to Instagram, and we have mixed feelings about it.
Prior to advertising, Instagram was being used effectively by many brands. They had to build fan bases with quality content, and acquire followers who had a genuine interest in what they were doing. That was the beauty of Instagram – it was all about photo discovery and building an inspiring feed.
It’s no surprise that advertisers are enticed by Instagram. The app has recently overtaken Twitter with 300 million active users and it continues to grow everyday. The majority of its users are drawn from the youngest age brackets, with 41% in the 16-24 demographic. They’re also more likely to be in the top income quartile.
Instagram has only allowed brands with a strong existing following to advertise. The company is so determined to make ads fit seamlessly into users’ feeds, that Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom is personally approving each one. Fun fact: ads are rumoured to cost up to half a million dollars per month.
The ads look like regular posts but are prominently marked “sponsored.” Let’s take a look at some sponsored ads we’ve seen:
*Instagram released the results from the pioneer brand campaigns on their business blog two months after the initial US launch.
Advertising was the beginning of the end for Facebook in a lot of ways, and it would be a shame to see Instagram become the same type of platform. At the same time, these ads are high quality and don't feel as intrusive.
The first time I saw this commercial, I definitely laughed out loud. And while it’s pretty cute and pretty funny, it is also resonating pretty perfectly with my personal goal for 2015: to figure out how to slow down, live in the moment, and back away from this mindset that being constantly, unendingly super busy is the only way to be a successful, ambitious, competent person.
Our culture in general seems to really value busyness. We complain about it, but it’s expected and embraced at the same time. Most of us feel we don’t have any choice but to be busy. After all, there’s just so much going on and so much to do, and then there’s FOMO to worry about… so you keep up or get left behind.
The advertising agency world is a deadline-driven, always-say-yes kind of place. It can feel very expected and encouraged to let work take over your life - like you get some weird kind of industry-cred for being bleary-eyed and hunch-backed from way too many hours at your computer. Aside from work, we all have families, friends, pets, events, obligations, errands, and life in general that all have to be balanced, and it’s easy to just accept that full speed 24/7 is literally just the only option. But is it?
Probably not. At least I’m starting to think it’s not. So this year, when the calendar flipped over and everyone started talking about New Year’s Resolutions, I started thinking about being busy. I decided that maybe 2015 was the year that I started to give myself a break. I work hard, and that’s cool, but somewhere in between deadlines and goals and crossing things off lists, I want to make sure I don’t miss out on just enjoying life.
So while saying “no” is still not my biggest strength, over the past couple of months I’ve been slowly taking steps toward slowing things down, letting go of some responsibilities and commitments, and enjoying some downtime (and it only counts as downtime if you aren’t feeling guilty the whole time). Mostly, I’m just looking to find ways to get better at enjoying and living in the moment, instead of getting distracted by what’s next and what needs to be done. Maybe you’re really good at that – if so, feel free to pass along some tips. And let’s all remember to use our holiday days, shall we?
We have all invested time and energy developing our branding resources to use when working with clients on their brand identity. Now Scott Thomas of Simple.Honest.Work. in Chicago has maybe come to our rescue with what he believes is the ultimate tool to make it even simpler and more effective.
With the help of Mark Temkin, one of the people behind the game “Cards Against Humanity”, Thomas has created a deck of cards with adjectives used by many of us to help clients define who they really are and are not. Each team member gets their own deck to sort through and then as a team decide what really applies to them and what definitely does not. Pretty simple.
Instead of funding the project on their own, they turned to Kickstarter.com to crowd source and have so far raised more than their goal. They are now also working on a “Not safe for the workplace” version, again with the “Cards for Humanity” people (I wouldn’t want to accidentally mix those decks up).
This venture will be interesting to follow and although I believe we will stick to our own tried and true methods, I can see these cards showing up in some branding agency boardrooms, or more likely, the “not safe” version being played every Friday afternoon in the lounge. Check it out!
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